by Belle Cushing, photo by Jolie Rubin
We love a cooler full of cold ones as much as the next barbecue fiend (and perhaps more than most "workplaces"), but when it comes to bringing booze for a cookout, beer is only the beginning. Beer is easy, cheap, and crowd-pleasing, sure, but the other BBQ beverages are a little more unexpected, a little more fun -- and still perfectly suited to the grill.
There are three simple rules that are hard to dispute. Bring: 1) something pink; 2) something bubbly; 3) ice. We can guarantee the crowd will be pleased as punch -- that punch you brought and assembled on the picnic table, to everyone's awe and utter delight.
Here's our guide to diversifying your summer booze line-up:
1. WINE: Bubbles Are Best
There is wine to sit and contemplate over the course of a dinner, and then there is wine that you pour into a paper cup, toss a few ice cubes in if that's how you roll, swig back, and enjoy. This is the wine you should be bringing to a barbecue. Think light, refreshing, low-alcohol -- you will be day drinking, after all -- and, ideally, with bubbles. This is not the time for your vintage Champagne, but light sparklers like Txakoli, pétillant naturel, and Lambrusco should all be invited. Extra points if they're pink.
Txakoli, a coastal Basque wine that is hard to pronounce, is oh-so-easy to drink. We love the slight effervescence of the frothy, sea-breezy (and screwcapped!) Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis rosé.
And then there's pétillant naturel, aka méthode ancestrale a.k.a. pet nat. The term designates a production method, not a single style, so you can find pet nat in all colors, flavors, and regions. The unifying factor is that these wines undergo a single fermentation (unlike Champagne, which undergoes two fermentations and is helped along by added yeast and sugar). It's a more rustic, hands-off bubbly, not to mention being more affordable than its stricter counterpart. Pet Nat is to Champagne what Emma Stone is to Grace Kelly, and don't you want Emma chillin' at your backyard 'cue? For her "BBQ move," editor-in-chief of Punch Talia Baiocchi goes for Patrick Bottex "La Cueille" Bugey Cerdon Rosé, a "patio-pounding bubbly wine from the Savoie." Here, low-alcohol is key. "If you're drinking all day in the sun, you don't want to end up hungover before dinner," advises Baiocchi. "This is your distance drink." And if it's hot out, she gives you permission to throw in some ice. Yes, it's okay.
Justin Vann of PSA Wines in Houston concurs that bubbles are a barbecue's best friend; he thinks dry red Lambrusco is perfect for Texas barbecue like brisket and sausage. His current favorite is Opera02 Ca'Montanari Lambrusco di Mondena. "It has a higher tannin level than these wines usually exhibit," he says, "and it can stand up to the fattiest, smokiest brisket while still being light on its feet and refreshing as hell." And for a barbecue that skews more white meat and vinegar sauces, says Vann, "rosé Lambrusco slays."
2. MORE WINE: The Exception that Proves the Rule
A brief detour from the pink and bubbly route: For grilling up a big ol' steak, chilled Cru Beaujolais can't be beat. Another low-alcohol wine, it's easy to drink and yet can stand up to all that meat and spice and smoke. Some of our favorites are G. Descombes Morgon 2012, or Jean Paul Brun's Cote de Brouilly.
SEE MORE: 22 Ridiculous Pieces of Grilling Gear
3. EVEN MORE WINE: Go Big, or Go Home
As in: magnums. BA Foodist Andrew Knowlton loves himself a good 1.5 liters of rosé, and you can't blame him. In fact, you can only emulate. The magnum treatment applies to any of the above.
And you know what holds even more than a magnum? A box of wine (= three whole liters = four whole bottles). The technical term is jeroboam, but containers made of cardboard are way more fun -- and much easier to cart up to the rooftop or to the park. Jenny and Francois's "From the Tank" Domaine de la Patience proves that boxed wine can go beyond the bag slap. This is a brisk, easy-drinking Chardonnay from the Languedoc in France -- think of it as a keg, but classier.
4. CIDER: Just Drink It!
It's a personal endeavor of some members on staff to get everyone else to drink more cider. Here's why: It's low in alcohol, crisp, refreshing, bubbly (how'd you know we were going to say bubbles!?), and there is no shortage of new varieties to get excited about right now. Go Basque (Sidre Emilio Martinez Brut), French (Cidre Bouché Etienne Dupont), or keep it closer to home (J.K. Scrumpy from Michigan, New York's own Farnum Hill). Take the opportunity to try out local varieties in your region.
5. PORTABLE PUNCH: Aperitifs Show You Care
The host will likely be chained to the grill, and wouldn't she just love for you to mix her up a low-octane cocktail while she's busy flipping patties? There's something really thoughtful and even sort of epic about showing up to a barbecue, not with a six pack from the deli, but all the fixins' for a cocktail.
Arriving at a BBQ with a bottle of Pimm's No. 1 in tow is a favorite move of a) this writer b) our own editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport, and it c) gets the stamp of approval from bartender Steve Schneider of New York's Employees Only. Impromptu Pimm's Cups are easy to make, easy to drink, and add a touch of class. Combine Pimm's No. 1 with some sort of sparkling mixer -- whether soda water, ginger ale or beer, or sparkling wine -- plus citrus juice and a load of fresh-sliced cucumbers, oranges, and lemons.
Baiocchi makes a habit of showing up at cookouts with a "spritz kit": one bottle of Aperol; two bottles of Prosecco, and two oranges. "At a BBQ you never want to serve drinks you have to measure out," she explains. "The spritz is two ingredients (you can add the traditional hit of bubbly water on top to make three) and impossible not to love. Cut a bunch of half wheels of orange, throw two open bottles of Prosecco on ice near a bottle of Aperol... make instant friends."
The formula is simple: pink (Aperol, Pimm's No. 1) + bubbly (water, wine, or both) = summer cocktail bliss. See what you did there? You just put every six-pack toter to shame.
Of course, as Schneider says, "although the 'mixologists' might frown, the truth is you can never go wrong at a party with a bottle of vodka." Can't argue with that.
6. Rocks, Hold the Booze
It's a safe bet that other people will bring booze, but it's guaranteed that there won't be enough ice (that and other BBQ blunders here). Everyone will thank you.
More from Bon Appetit: